Russia vows to respond to Lithuania’s ban on goods transit
MOSCOW (AP) — Lithuania’s decision to bar Moscow from shipping certain goods by rail to Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad will result in a response that will have a “significant negative impact” on the Lithuanian people, a top Russian security official said Tuesday.
The ban on goods subject to European Union sanctions was announced by Lithuanian authorities earlier this month and prompted a flurry of angry retorts from Moscow, with the Kremlin denouncing the move as unprecedented and unlawful.
Nikolai Patrushev, the powerful secretary of the Kremlin’s Security Council, visited the Kaliningrad region on Tuesday and vowed during a national security meeting to take action over the ban.
“Russia will definitely respond to such hostile actions,” Patrushev said. “The relevant measures are being drawn up in an interagency format and will be adopted shortly. Their consequences will have a significant negative impact on the population of Lithuania.”
He didn’t elaborate on what action Russia might take. Patrushev will report on results of his trip to Kaliningrad to President Vladimir Putin, his office said.
Separately, the Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday summoned the European Union ambassador to Russia, Markus Ederer, and “expressed a resolute protest” over the transit ban. The ministry said in a statement that it “demanded an immediate resumption of the normal operation” of the transit, otherwise “retaliatory measures will follow.”
Kaliningrad, home to some 430,000 people, is isolated from the rest of Russia and borders EU members Lithuania and Poland. Trains with goods for Kaliningrad travel via Belarus and Lithuania; there’s no transit through Poland. Russia can still supply the exclave by sea without falling foul of EU sanctions.
The Lithuanian government stressed in a written statement Tuesday that “the transit of passengers and non-sanctioned goods to and from the Kaliningrad region through Lithuania continues uninterrupted,” and that the ban on transit of sanctioned goods was merely part the fourth package of EU sanctions against Russia.
Top Lithuanian officials decried Russia’s reaction to the measure as an attempt by the Kremlin to wind up a propaganda campaign trying to create an image of a “blockade” mainly for internal consumption.
Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anušauskas tweeted Monday that “European countries may continue to be intimidated by Russia” … but “let’s not lose the ability to separate disinformation and propaganda from real possibilities.”
The country’s prime minister, Ingrida Simonyte, rejected claims about the blockade of Kaliningrad is a product of Kremlin propaganda.
“It’s just that EU sanctions have come into force on some of the goods included in the package, namely steel and ferrous metals. The transportation of all other goods that are either unsanctioned or not yet subject to sanctions is continuing, as is the transit of passengers” she said, noting the great irony behind Russia’s references to international treaties.
“I don’t know if there’s any international treaty left that Russia hasn’t violated yet,” Simonyte said.